Arguing with couch-mates about what a National Football League team should do on fourth down has become a nearly equivalent staple to football Sundays as nachos. I analyzed data from 2010 to 2014 to make statistical predictions of the results of the three potential play types—Punt, Field Goal, and Run a Play From Scrimmage (“Go For It”)—as an alternative to the hindsight and anecdotally based arguments that are most frequently used. I divided my research based on where the offense is on the field using the five-yard demarcations drawn on all fields. Overall, the results of the research indicated overwhelming evidence in favor of “Going For It” on fourth down. The advantage to “Going For It” rather than punting ranged from 2.618 to 3.384 average net points resulting from the decision. The advantage to attempting a field goal ranged from 2.702 to -0.193 average net points (potential explanations for negative value explained within).
Click here for full research.